Northern Ireland woman whose brainpower helped defeat the Nazis dies at the age of 96

Kathleen Cuthbert, whose language skills  saw her recruited at Bletchley Park
Kathleen Cuthbert, whose language skills saw her recruited at Bletchley Park

A highly talented Northern Ireland student who went on to help defeat the Nazis, has died at the age of 96.

After graduating from Queen’s University with a degree in German Literature, Co Antrim woman Kathleen Cultbert was recruited by the Bletchley Park team tasked with cracking the Nazi Enigma code.

A farmer’s daughter, Kathleen grew up in Ballyvoy near Doagh. She attended Londonderry High School for Girls where she held the position of head girl.

Kathleen was one of the outstanding pupils of her generation in Northern Ireland. She was given a scholarship to Queen’s University where she studied French and German Literature.

Because of her linguistic skills and academic prowess she was headhunted to be a translator at Bletchley Park, the top secret wartime government department that broke the allegedly ‘unbreakable’ German High Command Enigma Code, which is believed to have changed the course of World War Two.

There she worked under the direction of renown mathematician Alan Turing.

In 1943 she married Norman Cuthbert, a teacher who she met in Portstewart where the family had settled during the war. They had a daughter together at the end of the war, which coincided with Kathleen going to Bernaville in northern France on an exchange visit for practical experience in the language.

While her husband lectured in the Economics department at Queen’s, Kathleen took up a position as tutor in the French department.

With her husband she travelled as widely as possible, where she always made the effort to communicate in the local tongue.

Much more than a talented linguist, at the age of 60, Kathleen took part, as navigator, in the Monte Carlo Dash, a women-only rally event.

Kathleen is survived by her daughter Christine, her granddaughter and grandson, and four great grandchildren.